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Patient Privacy in the Age of Social Media

Every Sunday night, healthcare Tweeps from around the world come together for the #hcsm (healthcare and social media) chat. The chat moves at lightning pace — and often overwhelms those new to the conversations. However, the #hcsm chat is the place to jump in with both feet. This Sunday, the first topic addressed dealt with patient privacy and social media. I've excerpted my own comments and those directly in return. 

What does patient privacy mean in age of social media? And, does that mean patients have a right to broadcast their care?

@AfternoonNapper Pt privacy=I can share about my health & care. What I share makes me fair game to be contacted by like-patients.#hcsm

@AfternoonNapper Broadcasting care - good & bad - falls under the realm of free speech; therefore pts have the right whether HCPs like it or not.#hcsm

@AfternoonNapper However, what is of interest is where the line of slander/libel can be drawn in re: the "print" of SoMe re: docs/facilities. #hcsm

@RyanMadanickMD >> @AfternoonNapper T1 do you think that there are HCPs who don't agree or don't like it? #hcsm

@AfternoonNapper >> @RyanMadanickMD Absolutely. If an HCP is criticized via SoMe, that has greater reach than simple word-of-mouth per usual. #hcsm

@TaborF You can choose to share your personal information, but can't always control what others will do with it once it's out there #hcsm

@AfternoonNapper >> @TaborF Spot on. And THAT's a huge part of the problem. #hcsm

@AfternoonNapper Frankly, doctors are the least of my worries re: disclosure of private info. Worry more about facilities, other patients, nosy ppl. #hcsm

@crgonzalez >> @AfternoonNapper And what about the terms of use from FB which tried to "own" all the content shared on its platform. Remember that?#hcsm

@AfternoonNapper >> @crgonzalez Another great point and one that would be a fascinating legal battle when it comes to healthcare/HIPPA/etc. #hcsm

@schwartzbrown Seems as if people feel they need to protect "patients" from themselves. #hcsm

@AfternoonNapper >> @schwartzbrown Patients do need some protection from themselves re: SoMe simply due to confusing legalities/policies. #hcsm

@AfternoonNapper Just because my patient group is largely on FB, that doesn't mean that all our participants know the nitty gritty of FB rules. #hcsm


To keep the conversation going — what do you think about patient privacy in relation to social media (Twitter, Facebook, discussion forums, etc)? There are commonly referred to risks. Do you feel that you fully understand the risks? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Have you directly experienced discrimination as a result of health disclosures on the internet? What can patients and group leaders do to address privacy concerns?


This blog post is part of WEGO Health's Health Activists Writer's Month Challenge (#HAWMC). Prompt: write about the best conversation had during the week.

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